A methodology for learning. Part 8 – Case Study

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks running through each of the six steps of my learning methodology. To round things off, i wanted to share a case study, to show a practical application of this thinking. The project i’m using is a 45 minute piece of e-learning for a global client, with an associated social learning space. The subject is ‘How to manage challenge constructively‘, so it’s a behavioural piece. We are looking for an outcome where managers are confident and competent to run different types of conversations.

MCC - wireframe introduction page

When designing learning, i like to wireframe the stages, letting me check back that everything is covered before we ever build anything ‘real’


MCC - introduction wireframe

We wireframe up the different stages to allow us to walk through the learning and check that all stages are covered, and that we have choreographed the experience well

The context for this piece was a group of managers taking part in a mentoring programme. They had volunteered for this project, so the context was simple to establish. If we consider it in terms of ‘how we come to learning‘, this group were here because they were curious and because it was planned.

Context is where we establish the contract with the learner: in this case, there is no need to go overboard. We just need to ensure that the invitation sent from the system is couched in individual terms and that it’s friendly! We also, in this case, used an informal style of presenter video to welcome the learner and set an expectation of what they would be doing.

For this project, we were using video to demonstrate the ways in which we could manage challenging conversations effectively: this required the mentor to confront the issue in the room. In terms of the learning, we wanted to illustrate that this is not a scripted approach. Success depends upon the learner’s ability to recognise what is happening, to consciously think about which style to use and to have a conversation in that style effectively. It’s a case of choosing which hat fits best in any particular situation.

MCC - demonstration video plain

We use video to demonstrate how the conversation may be run

In this video, you’ll see that there is the manager (playing the role that the learner will be taking eventually in real life), as well as the person they are mentoring. There is also a third character, stood up. This is the Guide. The Guide is able to interact between the characters on screen and ourselves as the viewers. They are able to support the demonstration by making explicit what we are seeing.

Having demonstrated what we are talking about, we want to give the learner a chance to play with it. Specifically in this case, we want the learner to diagnose that there is an issue and to play with a scenario to determine possible outcomes.

MCC - Branching video

In a branching scenario, you are able to explore actions and outcomes, and you get contextual feedback, depending what you do.

To do this, we used a branching video, allowing learners to explore different routes through the scenario: they could see a confrontational approach, a ‘drawing‘ style and so on. Note that this was an unconstrained section (because it’s for play), so they could go back and watch all the possible routes, replaying the scenario a number of times. At this stage, we are in a bubble for experimentation, a safe place to make mistakes. Indeed, i expect that, when we look at the results, we see that some people have very high levels of errors, choosing the wrong paths, because they are deliberately playing with the scenario, probing the boundaries. This is common behaviour in situations where we remove consequences.

The reflective part of this learning was simple: we used a couple of new videos where learners were asked to reflect on how people were feeling: was the situation challenging or supporting, was the manager empathetic or objective.

MCC - exploration and reflection screenshot

In this diagnostic exercise, we use sliders to allow the learner to measure and record their interpretation of the situation

They used sliders whilst the video plays to support this and, at the end, we fed back what we thought as well. Alongside this, we used personal learning logs (personal narrative) and conversations with the individual coach that every learner was paired with (in this case, an hour of telephone coaching over the following six weeks). Remember, none of these stages have to take a long time, but we should consciously engineer them in or consciously leave them out!

MCC - diagnostic exercise wireframeFor this project, there was no formal assessment, but we did use a second set of branching scenarios for an informal one.

In this case, it’s a constrained environment, you can view the options, but only make one choice. In some cases, the video paths are obviously ‘right‘ and ‘wrong‘, but in others they are just different choices. We do this because we then ask the learner to explain their reasoning and use this as a basis for a coaching conversation. Back in the ‘real‘ world, we recognise that different people can take different approaches, so wanted this to reflect that.


MCC - wireframe - footsteps

We finish with a screen to give access to supporting materials, as well as the social learning space

For ‘footsteps‘, we had a lively social learning community with a dedicated forum space for each cohort and active moderation. We also produced a podcast of ‘war stories’, tales of the experiences people have had with this in ‘real life’. There was also a one page fact-sheet to download on iPad or mobile. Just short, key points of the learning. No workbooks!

As you can see, this is a simple, short piece of e-learning, with an associated social learning space, but we have built into it each stage of the learning methodology. We have set the context, demonstrated a range of approaches, allowed learners to explore and reflect, carried out some soft assessment and put in place some support for footsteps back into their everyday reality.

Learning doesn’t need to be complex, but it needs rigour, and looking back at a methodology whilst we design the learning can help us to get that in place from the start. the learning will be stronger for doing it.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Adaptability, Assessment, Collaboration, Conversation, Design, Diagnostic tools, Disturbance, E-Learning, Effectiveness, Engagement, Learning, Learning Design, Learning Journey, Learning Methodology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A methodology for learning. Part 8 – Case Study

  1. Pingback: A methodology for learning. Part 8 - Case Study...

  2. tanyalau says:

    Great case study Julian! Good way to end the series.

  3. Pingback: A methodology for learning. Part 8 – Case...

  4. Pingback: Developing a Learning Architecture. A #WorkingOutLoud Post | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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